Costa Rica’s Independence Day
Costa Rica’s Independence Day is one of the most meaningful historical milestones of the country.
Similar to the rest of Central American countries, residents celebrate la Independencia de Costa Rica (Costa Rica’s Independence Day) every September 14 and 15. This holiday marks the country’s separation from the Spanish Crown and the official declaration of Costa Rica as an independent Republic.
Becoming an independent nation wasn’t easy for los ticos (Costa Ricans).
Even though the country achieved freedom without engaging in battles or war, they had to gain their independence not once, but two times.
Let’s travel back in time to revisit quick facts and key events that led to Costa Rica’s Independence Day.
Essential Spanish Vocabulary
Before we begin unwinding the history and major events that led to Costa Rica’s Independence Day, let’s examine this list of Spanish vocabulary and phrases related to their noteworthy accomplishment.
|Declaration of Independence||la declaración de la independencia|
|Spanish Empire||el Imperio Español|
|free state||el estado libre|
|Chief of state||el Jefe de Estado|
|torch and lanterns||la antorcha y los faroles|
Example Spanish Sentences
Costa Rica celebra su independencia el 14 y 15 de septiembre.
Costa Rica celebrates their independence every 14th and 15th of September.
Costa Rica firmó su Declaración de Independencia en 1821.
Costa Rica signed their Declaration of Independence in 1821.
Costa Rica se independizó del Imperio Español.
Costa Rica became independent from the Spanish Empire.
Costa Rica se convirtió en un estado libre y eligió su propio jefe de Estado.
Costa Rica became a free state and elected their own Chief of State.
La gente celebra el Día de la Independencia de Costa Rica con desfiles.
People celebrate Costa Rica’s Independence Day with parades.
La antorcha y los faroles son tradiciones de Costa Rica.
The torch and lanterns are traditions of Costa Rica.
History of Costa Rica’s Independence Day
As soon as the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Central America in the 16th Century, Costa Rica became a part of the Capitanía General de Guatemala (Captaincy General of Guatemala).
La Capitanía was the portion of territory under Spanish rule that included Chiapas in México, Guatemala, Belice, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. This Capitanía General was part of the Virreinato de la Nueva España (Viceroyalty of New Spain).
Due to Costa Rica’s remoteness and distance from Guatemala, the country enjoyed the advantage of being frequently overlooked by Spanish authorities. This allowed the nation to thrive mostly on its own and gain a larger autonomy compared to other Central American provinces.
Background of the Spanish Occupation
During Spain’s occupation of Costa Rica and other Latin American nations, there were two distinctions of Spanish inhabitants. The first were los peninsulares, Spanish folk who settled in the New Continent, and los criollos, who were descendents of Spanish people born in America.
Los peninsulares were in charge of making important decisions, possessing rights and advantages los criollos did not have. Los criollos began to grow tired of Spain’s rule and wanted a change due to the new streams of thought that gained momentum in the region.
The Independence of the United States of America, the revolutionary ideals from France, Haiti’s Independence in 1804, and the neglect of Spain towards Central America were all triggering events that ultimately sparked the fight for freedom in the region.
In 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte also invaded Spain. This unleashed chaos in the Iberian Peninsula and gave room for Latin American populations to organize their emancipation.
In comparison to the violence that unfolded in countries like Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, and Mexico, the fights for independence in the Central American regions were relatively peaceful.
Becoming Independent from Spain
In February of 1821, after a long battle, Mexico drafted a decree known as El Plan de Iguala (the Iguala Plan). The Mexicans’ new plan announced their independence from Spain. The southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca followed these actions and also declared their independence.
General Gabino Gaínza received these documents in Guatemala on September 13th, 1821.
General Gaínza summoned an emergency meeting with Guatemala’s municipality, the clergy, and other political authorities. Following this lengthy meeting in Guatemala’s Palacio Nacional, Guatemalan authorities declared their own Independence from Spain on September 15th, 1821.
The Declaration of Independence of Guatemala focused only on the country’s independence. It didn’t include other Central American nations.
Costa Rica’s Independence Day
Guatemalan authorities made it their mission to communicate their independence to the other Central American provinces and sent out a copy of the documents by mail.
These documents left Guatemala City on a horse and made their way through El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. As each of the nations declared their independence from Spain, the documents finally reached Costa Rica on October 13th, 1821.
Costa Rica’s capital at the time was the city of Cartago.
It was in Cartago on October 25th, 1821, where Costa Rican authorities summoned representatives of other cities such as Alajuela, Heredia, and San José to discuss Costa Rica’s Independence.
The idea of becoming independent from Spain and a possible annexation to Mexico or Colombia was exciting for los ticos.
José Santos Lombardo, a politician, occupied the barracks of Cartago and seized control of Costa Rica’s weaponry on October 28th, 1821. His goal was to prevent any reprisal or act of violence as a consequence of any of his decisions in regards to Costa Rica’s Independence Day. This was the first proof that Costa Ricans would always choose peace and dialogue over conflict.
Finally, on October 29th, 1821, Cartago’s authorities, the civilian population, the Costa Rican military, and the clergy ultimately decided to declare Costa Rica’s Independence Day from Spain and signed a Declaration of Independence.
A Second Independence
As Costa Rica and other Central American nations gained their independence from Spain, the hard task of deciding the region’s future became a dilemma.
Central America formally became a part of Mexico. This lasted for only two years and once they separated, Central America established their own Federal Republic.
La República Federal de Centro América (Central America’s Federal Republic) was under the control of Guatemala City and El Salvador. At this time, Costa Rica wasn’t a sovereign nation yet, and faced a political division that affected their society.
Following a period of disagreement between countries, Central America’s Federal Republic finally dissolved between 1838 and 1839.
At last, Costa Rica was an independent Republic and to this day they still remain a peaceful, sovereign country.
It was Jose María Castro Madríz, Costa Rica’s elected Chief of State, who in 1848 declared that Costa Rica’s Independence Day would be celebrated every 15th of September—just like the rest of Central America.
Costa Rica’s Independence Day Celebrations
Costa Rica’s Independence Day enabled the country to define their identity. Since then, several meaningful and special traditions take place every 14th and 15th of September to commemorate the significance of the event.
El recorrido de la antorcha
El recorrido de la antorcha (the torch run) begins on September 9th in Guatemala. Patriots carry an antorcha (torch) by foot throughout Central America. The journey finishes in Costa Rica in the city of Cartago on September 14th. This torch is a special symbol for the whole region.
Los desfiles (parades) include marching bands, colorful costumes, local foods, Costa Rican flags, and dances. The parade usually takes place on the morning of September 14th, and it is intended for both adults and children of all ages.
Los faroles (lanterns) are an essential part of Costa Rica’s Independence Day celebrations.
They are an homage to Dolores Bedoya, a Guatemalan lady who used a lantern to spread her message of independence from Spain. Costa Rican children make faroles using recycled materials, patriotic symbols, and stickers. Entire families march along Costa Rica’s streets using los faroles every September 14.
Plan a Trip to Costa Rica
2021 marks 200 years of Independence for los ticos. You can celebrate Costa Rica’s Independence Day with a Spanish immersion trip to this amazing country.
Join a free class with our native teachers from Guatemala and start preparing your language skills for deep, meaningful, and fluid conversations while you’re abroad!
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